Scouting The Trade Market: Drew Smyly


(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The Yankees addressed their major pitching needs earlier this offseason by re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera to one-year contracts. Their recent focus has been on the position player side, though the Kevin Youkilis and Ichiro Suzuki signings plug two of their three biggest holes. A right-handed hitting outfielder and DH is still on the agenda for the rest of the winter.

Despite those position player needs, the Yankees also figure to be on the lookout for cheap, long-term help pretty much anywhere on the field given the plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014. Kuroda, Pettitte, and Phil Hughes are all scheduled to become free agents next winter at a time when young arms like Michael Pineda, Manny Banuelos, Jose Campos, and Dellin Betances have either regressed or gotten hurt. Ivan Nova‘s miserable 2012 effort is another pitching black mark as well. The rotation post-2012 is a concern and there won’t be much money available to improve it via free agency.

The Tigers, on the other hand, have tons of pitching. Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister, and Max Scherzer are all signed or under team control for several years, plus they have Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly in reserve. Both pitchers are reportedly available in trades and drawing interest, and there’s a natural fit here because the Yankees could use some young arms. Porcello, a New Jersey native, is getting expensive through arbitration and has been generally underwhelming as a big leaguer (4.55 ERA and 4.26 FIP). He’s not a great fit for New York. Smyly, on the other hand, might be. Let’s break his game down.

The Pros

  • First things first: Smyly is left-handed and that’s always a plus in Yankee Stadium. Baseball America ranked him as Detroit’s third best prospect before the season, and they call him a future number three or four starter in their subscriber-only scouting report.
  • “Smyly has an advanced understanding of how to attack hitters, which allows his average stuff to play up,” wrote Baseball America, who also praised his delivery and deception. “He throws his fastball at 87-92 mph with slight tailing life, commanding it down in the zone … He uses both a curveball and a slider, with scouts split on which is more effective. He also has a splitter-like changeup and a mid-80s cutter.”
  • PitchFX data confirms the scouting report and says Smyly’s fastball lived at 92 in the show rather than topping out there. He pitched to a 3.99 ERA (3.83 FIP) with strong strikeout (8.52 K/9 and 22.6 K%) and walk (2.99 BB/9 and 7.9 BB%) rates in 99.1 big league innings this summer. His minor league numbers (9.7 K/9 and 26.5 K%, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.5 BB%) are just as impressive in 143.2 total innings. Yeah, the Tigers aren’t shy about rushing their pitchers up the ladder.
  • Smyly did not pick up a full season’s worth of service time in 2012, so he remains under team control for six more years. He also has at least two and possibly all three minor league options remaining as well.

The Cons

  • Smyly had a stress fracture in his elbow as a college freshman at Arkansas and missed six weeks with a sore arm in 2011. He threw 121 total innings this year and his career-high is 126 a year ago. He’s a big guy (listed at 6-foot-3, 190 lbs.), but he has yet to prove his durability. There’s no way to reasonably expect 30 starts and 200 innings from him in 2013.
  • It’s only 243 total innings, but Smyly has been fly ball prone as a professional. His minor league ground ball rate (45.9%) is lower than what you’d expect to see from a good pitching prospect, and in the big leagues he kept the ball on the ground just 39.9% of the time. As a result, he can be homer prone.
  • Smyly picked up enough service time this season that he’ll surely qualify for Super Two status and be arbitration-eligible four times instead of the usual three. Young players can get expensive in a hurry as Super Twos.

I like Smyly more than Baseball America seems too, but there’s no shame in being projected as a number three or four starter anyway. A lot of people seem to take that as an insult. Smyly, who turned 23 in June, has shown five pitches at the big league level and both the willingness and ability (these aren’t the same things) to throw strikes. He also hasn’t shown much (if any) of a platoon split thanks to the cutter. That’s all you can ask for from a young starter in the American League and his debut this season should be considered a positive sign. No doubt about it.

The Tigers are a pretty stacked team with few holes to fill, but their bullpen is still lacking in a major way. They insist they’re willing to open the season with prospect right-hander Bruce Rondon in the closer role, but I don’t buy that for a second. Owner Mike Ilitch didn’t spend all that money to have a kid with a 5.8 BB/9 (15.1 BB%) in the minors over the last two seasons pitching the late-innings. It’s not just the ninth inning either, they need setup help as well.

The Yankees don’t have a ton of relief depth to use in a trade, but for six years of Smyly they could totally offer up two years of David Robertson. There are enough free agent relievers still available — Matt Lindstrom, Mark Lowe, Brandon Lyon, and even Rafael Soriano stand out — that New York could find a capable replacement(s) for Robertson should they move him. Smyly would give them some much-needed young pitching depth from the left side, someone who could step right into a big league rotation if need be or spend time in Triple-A if things get crowded. It would be a very risky move, but also one that could help the Yankees both win now and win later.

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. Robinson Tilapia says:

    If you rearrange the letters “DREW SMYLY,” do you know what you get? “MICHAEL PINEDA.”

    I shit you not.

    In all seriousness, with Goody being profiled just one article before this one, could we build something around Montgomery here? I’m reliever-hugging D-Rob too much to follow that train of thought.

  2. pounder says:

    No,not for Robertson.

  3. jesse says:

    Would do Robertson for Smyly straight up.

  4. Havok9120 says:

    I’m expecting some kind of massive backlash for suggesting a Robertson trade.

    I’m not sure why, but it just seems like the kind of thing the comments section, as currently composed, will do.

    • jjyank says:

      Please don’t lump me in with that crowd, but I wouldn’t trade Robertson for Smyly as the roster is presently constructed.

  5. jjyank says:

    If Mo was 5 years younger, I might pull the trigger on Robertson for Smyly. But I think with Mo likely retiring after 2013, the number of proven bullpen arms drops off in a big way. Guys like Montgomery and Goody are fun to think about and all, but right now Robertson and Joba are the only proven guys in the bullpen to be long term, late inning pieces. And Joba is a free agent after 2013 to boot. I’d be really hesitant to let D-Rob go.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      I think there’s some logic behind selling high on any reliever, but I actually do think Robertson has a pretty good shot at succeeding Mo,

      I dunno. Head says “maybe.” Heart says “hell no.”

      • Mike HC says:

        Definitely. My first reaction was, “no, not Robertson,” but after really looking at it, a reliever coming up at the end of his team control for a talented lefty starter with like 6 years of control left … tough to pass up.

      • jjyank says:

        Sure, sell high on a reliever. But are we selling high on Robertson, or is he going to be this good for a long time? In my mind, selling high is when a guy has a career year, or significantly outperforms his peripherals that don’t jive with his minor league numbers, or something of that ilk. But I think Robertson can continue to be a really crucial part to the bullpen going forward.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          Yeah, this is where I lean, in the end. I really think he could step in for 2014 if this is Mo’s last stand, is healthy, etc.

          If this is really about bullpen help, I do wonder how much they’d value Montgomery and if you could go Boone, Montgomery, and third piece. Seems like too little for a lefty with this much team control.

  6. Mike HC says:

    Robertson for Smyly might hurt the team next year, but with Pettitte, Kuroda and Hughes future with the team up in the air beyond next year, it is move I would probably make.

  7. Chewie2 says:

    Another no vote. The available FAs mentioned are all older, not as good, and will cost a lot more, plus Robertson’s like the only guy in the 2013 pen we know what to expect from since just about everybody else is coming back from some kind of surgery. I’m still holding out hope for the “Robertson as closer after Mo” plan but fully expect Hal to disappoint me.

  8. Billion$Bullpen says:

    No thanks. I get the idea behind it but I do not care how many years of control a pitcher has if he has a history of arm issues and he is not amazing anyway. Leave Dave where he is too, we need him.

    • Milt Toast says:

      Oh, come on. Cashman wasn’t concerned about Pineda’s 2nd half in 2011. And look how that worked out. Oh, yeah, never mind.

  9. dkidd says:

    yankees ability to develop bullpen arms >>> yankees ability to develop starters

    i vote yes

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      Three current members of the rotation will have come from the system this season. That’s a bit overstated and oversimplified, you have to admit.

      • dkidd says:

        i admit it :)

        how about this:

        cost-controlled lefty starters >>> relievers, even elite ones

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          I’ll also admit that I was oversimplifying a bit as well in order to make my argument.

          I’m not sure I agree with you, in a general sense, on the second part.

      • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

        Technically Pettitte qualifies though it was from another century.

        It’s pretty tough to defend the argument that the Yankees have done a good job developing starting pitching.

        • Robinson Tilapia says:

          But they have. You know the names. This comes up all the time and we’re both around for it.

          I’m not saying we should throw them a parade :) , but they certainly shouldn’t be pegged as doing a poor job because we expected more from, say, Joba Chamberlain.

          • dkidd says:

            i see the yankees as entering a period where they need to take some risks. building a cost-controlled rotation is the holy grail. it’s a tough call, but i’d do the trade

            • Robinson Tilapia says:

              Absolutely, and the injury bullshit of these past few years has made things difficult on that end for sure.

              I’d take Smyly. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t deal Robertson, though.

          • Milt Toast says:

            Yes they certainly have and that’s why the organization gave the old bum’s rush to Billy Connors and “re-assigned” Nardi Contreras. Way to reward their exemplary work.

            • Robinson Tilapia says:

              And, yet, still, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and David Phelps actually exist, Ian Kennedy has become a quality starter, Chein Ming-Wang was a friggin All-Star before getting injured….

              • Rick says:

                Now compare those names to those produced by the Rays, Athletics, or any other team that produces great young pitching consistently. I think you’re really reaching to say the Yankees, as an organization, produce adequate starting pitchers from their system.

                • Robinson Tilapia says:

                  Oh Jesus Christ.

                  • Chris says:

                    Of course they would have a better farm system. Those are teams that have failed for some many years so they would get good draft picks which people don’t understand 1 overall draft pick > 26 and up overall draft pick

                • jjyank says:

                  “Rays, Athletics, or any other team”

                  M’kay, so let’s here the other teams then. You realize that teams that “produce great young pitching consistently” are EXTREMELY rare, and also somewhat lucky, right? High draft picks don’t hurt either. The Rays get a David Price, the Giants get a Madison Bumgarner that teams like the Yankees have no access to. Get a grip, son.

                • Jacob says:

                  Well those teams sucked ass for a while, giving them high draft picks and they also are poor and are all but required to build through the draft and have to get super good with scouting etc.

                  • Robinson Tilapia says:

                    His counterargument was TWO teams, and the two easiest teams to name. That’s when you walk away from the discussion.

                    • Rick says:

                      It was just a quick reference. How about the Mariners, Reds, Tigers, Marlins, heck even the Red Sox (Lester, Buccholz, Sanchez)… that’s now a quick seven with out even much thought. The Yankees inability to develop their own pitchers is know and is the reason for the high priced free agent pitchers to begin with. Take the ace each of those organizations have produced and find me someone remotely comparable from the Yankees over the past 15 years. I’ll wait.

                    • Rick says:

                      Also, for someone calling out a counter argument, your two replies have been “Oh Jesus Christ” and referencing that I only cited two teams initially. “Dynamite drop-in, Monty. Broadcast school is really paying off.”

                  • Rick says:

                    It’s beyond just sucking “ass.” These teams were able to find tremendous value beyond their first round draft picks, i.e. all people the Yankees could have drafted prior to their next selection.

              • Jacob says:


  10. trr says:

    Pass on Smyly, next please-

  11. Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

    I’d vote yes on this deal. It’s gonna be a bitch to replace Pettitte and Kuroda next year, not to mention Hughes is gonna get a lot more expensive.

    You could have replaced a guy like Robertson with someone like Uehara who cost the Red Sox what, about $4.5 million for one year. Replacing a starter will be far far more difficult and expensive.

    • Robinson Tilapia says:

      That’s the valid counterargument. Yes.

      The mitigating factors, for me, would the slight injury history and my own personal belief that Robertson could be closing for this team as early as next season.

  12. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    Joba for Smyly.

  13. Strat says:

    As much as I’d hate to lose Robertson, I think I’d have to say yes to a deal that brings in a young, talented and inexpensive lefty.

  14. I am not the droids you're looking for... says:

    Plus DRob is going to be (sort of) expensive in 2014 assuming another good season in 2013. Ordinarily I wouldn’t give a shit about this, but in light of that budget thing I remember hearing something about, I think you have to do this trade. Sadly.

  15. Rick says:

    I got it. Robertson for Smyly and Joba for Miley. I think the rhymes end there, but we could also do Cervelli for Posey. 25 players, all names ending “Y.” Go…

  16. LK says:

    Robertson for Smyly would certainly be a polarizing move. I think it probably weakens the 2013 team but sets them up better for the future. At the beginning of the offseason I would’ve said no, since I wanted them to go all in this year, but I think I’d do it the way the team is currently shaking out. Of course, a lot of that depends on how Mo is recovering from the ACL tear; if he’s not the old Mo a bullpen without Robertson could get ugly fast.

  17. RetroRob says:

    If Smyly has a good chance to be a quality starter over the next decade, then yeah, move D-Rob. I just don’t know. Smyly may never quite hit his stride. Yet if they Yankees are trying to reduce payroll, this is exactly the type of move they should consider.

    • RetroRob says:

      More specific, “moves like this,” are what they should consider. It doesn’t have to be a D-Rob for a Smyly, but if they’re really going to be more payroll sensitive, they need to change other ways they operate. If the A’s were to trade a Robertson for a Smyly, most would view it as a smart move, or at least an understandable move. If the Yankees were to do it, some will cringe. The Yankees are not the A’s, yet it wouldn’t hurt to adopt some of their tactics on the road to 189.

  18. Jacob says:

    But the soft tossing left in the AL East narrative! WHAT ABOUT THAT?

  19. Sam says:

    I say trade Warren and Burawa for Smyly. We don’t really have a spot for them anymore. Also I see a little bit of Andy P in Smyly. It’s a plus for next year since kuroda, Andy, Hughes will be gone. So our 2014 rotation if we get Smyly would look like:

    SMYLY/HUGHES(if he resigns)

  20. Ghost of Joe Dugan says:

    Sign Soriano and trade him for Smyly? Might need to add another piece to sweeten the deal. Saves Detroit a 1st rounder.

  21. There's the Door says:

    He’d make an excellent Yankee.

  22. cranky says:

    Trade David Robertson? For an unproven pitcher, no less?
    To quote John McEnroe: “You can’t be serious.”

    Joba Chamberlain, OK.
    Corban Joseph.
    Adam Warren.
    But D-Rob?


  23. Patrick Oliver says:

    I disagree Mike.
    Do NOT trade Robertson.
    Go Yankees!

  24. Sean Lawrence says:

    Just curious; if the Yankees were to trade with Detroit for Smyly, can they negotiate with the draft pick linked to Soriano so that the Tiger could sign a much needed closer?

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